Xenia Dunford’s evolution has been a fast one. Her 2011 self-titled EP featured heavy amounts of jazz, piano ballads and pop, while her second release, 2012’s Lonely Streets EP, saw her mixing those same elements with more rock and acoustic sensibilities. With the release of her first full-length album, His & Hers, Dunford’s evolution continues as she adds even more musical variety to her repertoire with hints of folk rock, country and Americana appearing throughout this album. It’s astounding to look at the progression she’s made in such a short time.
“What drove me to play the piano in general was that I was a singer with no means of expression,” Dunford says. “My first EP was kind of like an experiment. I had a bunch of material, but I didn’t really look at the bigger picture of what my songs could be.”
Fast forward a few years and listeners-and Dunford herself-now have a much clearer idea of what her songs can be. While in a number of ways His & Hers remains similar to her first two releases-all three incorporate jazzy elements, healthy doses of piano, Dunford’s honey-sweet smoky vocals and insightful lyrics-the album also stands out as the most cohesive piece of work she has created. Produced by Charlton Pettus, the twelve songs on the record-which features nine new tracks and three from the Lonely Streets EP-navigate through the ups and downs of life and encourages the listener to blaze their own trail. This is fitting considering Dunford’s desire to do her own thing, musically.
“I taught myself how to play piano and I haven’t been classically trained or anything,” Dunford says with a laugh. “Anytime I play people look at my hands and say they are pretty much backwards and I play weird, but I love that I’ve developed my own style!”
Whether singing about how difficult it is to leave all you know behind on the piano ballad “Home Waits For Me,” crooning about a handsome stranger she can’t get out of her mind in the bluesy piano rock number “A Way About You,” or extolling the virtues of being yourself and accepting others for who they are in the soulful Americana rock number “Rhyme and Reason,” Dunford gives impassioned performances throughout His & Hers. Musically, “1963” stands as the best example of how His & Hers creates a bridge to Dunford’s musical past and future while immersing itself squarely in the present. The song’s upbeat pop-meets-folk-meets-Dixieland-jazz sound, combined with guest vocals by Parker Richey, showcase many of the familiar and new dynamics that are to be found on this record.
“The album title touches on the fact that my guitarist and songwriting partner, Scotty Mlodzinski, and I pretty much did everything fifty-fifty here,” she says. “I love folk and Americana but I also have elements of jazz and soulful pop. Scotty played in blues and rock ‘n’ roll bands and he brings that rootsy blues vibe to the table. We have this melting pot of genres that gives the record old school flair with a modern, unique sound at the same time. We meticulously crafted these songs and spent a lot of time working and arranging every little detail.”
This attention to detail paved the way for Dunford, Mlodzinski and bassist Forrest Pettengill to create an album that is full of diverse sounds, emotions and experiences that will resonate with many listeners. Fans on both the East and West Coast have been listening as the band has played in noteworthy venues and festivals. With a year of touring, starting with Canadian Music Fest and the release of His & Hers, excitement is sure to build as Xenia Dunford continues to evolve.